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Earliest Christian Diversity

In keeping with the current topic of the diversity of early Christianity, I thought I could say something about a book that I just read that I found to be unusually interesting and enlightening.   It is by two Italian scholars, married to each other, who teach at the Università di Bologna, Adriana Destro, an anthropologist, and Mauro Pesce, a New Testament specialist whose teaching position is in the History of Christianity. Their book is called Il racconto e la scrittura: Introduzione alla lettura dei vangeli.  It is about all the things I am currently interested in:  the life of Jesus as recounted by his earliest followers, the oral traditions of Jesus, and the Gospels as founded on these oral traditions.  In it they develop a theory that I had never thought of before.   I’m not sure all the evidence is completely compelling, but the overall view is very interesting and very much worth thinking about.   As an anthropologist Prof Destro looks at things in ways differently from most of us who are text-people; and she [...]

Orthodoxy and Heresy in the New Testament Itself

I am now getting back to the question of early Christian diversity – all in the context of setting up the answer to the question I got about what I had in mind when I decided to write my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.   I have been discussing the views of Walter Bauer, in his classic work, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, who maintained that from the earliest of times, so far as we can tell from our surviving records, Christianity was not a single unitary thing with one set of doctrines that everyone believed (orthodoxy), except for occasional groups that sprang up as followers of false teachers who corrupted that truth they had inherited (heresies).  Instead, as far back as we can trace the history of theology, Christianity was always a widely disparate collection of various beliefs (and practices).  In the struggle for converts, one form of the Christian faith ended up becoming dominant.  When it did so, it declared itself orthodox and all other forms of the faith heretical; and then [...]

2020-04-03T13:34:13-04:00July 12th, 2015|Heresy and Orthodoxy, Paul and His Letters|

Taming the Diversity of the New Testament

In my previous post I started to show why it is difficult to use the New Testament itself as evidence that Christianity started out as an original unity, only to come to be fragmented with the passage of time into the second and third Christian centuries. It is true that the NT is the earliest set of Christian writings that we have, and that most of the books can probably be dated to the first Christian century.  We don’t have any other books (well, virtually any other books) this early (I don’t think the Gospel of Thomas can date to the first century; the one exception to the rule would probably be 1 Clement, which is usually dated to the mid 90s CE, and which is, indeed, a proto-orthodox writing). The two problems I’ve isolated with using the NT to demonstrate early Christian unity are that:  1) The reason we have these books and no others from the time is that these are the books that later orthodox church fathers deemed scripture and worked to [...]

Doesn’t the New Testament Show that Christianity Was Originally Unified?

In my discussions so far of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity I have been talking about Walter Bauer and his classic work, which argued that as far back as we can trace the Christian movement in numerous regions of Christendom, we find forms of the Christian faith that were later deemed heretical.   “Heresy” is not necessarily, therefore, a later corruption of the orthodox truth.  In some places it was the “original” form of the religion. Some readers have objected that it doesn’t make sense to start with the second century evidence in order to say what Christianity was originally like, since Christianity originated long before all that, in the first century. I think that’s absolutely right.   And so the question is what the first century evidence – that is, the writings of the New Testament – can tell us. Let me stress a point I have already made, that ... THE REST OF THIS POST IS FOR MEMBERS ONLY.  If you don't belong yet, JOIN UP!!  It doesn't cost much, and every penny goes [...]

How Diverse Was Early Christianity?

In order to get to the question of what motivated my book The Orthdox Corruption of Scripture, and to explain more fully what the book was about, I have spent three posts talking about the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy” and why they are problematic; in doing so I have been explaining both the traditional view of the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy (as found, for example, in the writings of Eusebius) and the view set forth, in opposition, by Walter Bauer.   Several readers have asked where we now stand on the issue, some 80years after Bauer’s intervention. As I indicated in my last post, there are some problems with Bauer’s analysis, but also much positive to say about it.   Conservative scholars continue to hold to a more traditional view (e.g., conservative Roman Catholic and evangelical scholars); others find it *basically* convincing, even if they would write the details up very differently from Bauer. I am very much, and rather enthusiastically .... THE REST OF THIS POST IS FOR MEMBERS ONLY.  If you don't belong yet, [...]

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